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Árpád Göncz | Csilla Cseke/MTI

Former President Göncz 90 Years Old

D&T
February 10, 2012

The former President of the Republic of Hungary, Árpád Göncz celebrates his 90th birthday this Friday. He was the translator of over a hundred literary works, and a writer before becoming the first President of the Third Republic.

Árpád Göncz was born in Budapest on 10 February, 1922 in a family of intellectuals. He graduated from Law School in 1944. He was conscripted in February, 1944, but in 1945, he deserted from his unit ordered to Germany.

He was member of the Independent Smallholders’ Party from 1945. First, he was Chairman of the Budapest youth section of the party and he was also the editor of the periodical Nemzedék (Generation.) After the dissolution of the party, he worked as an unskilled worker, then as a welder and a locksmith of pipe-works. in 1952, he enrolled at the Gödöllõ University of Agriculture for four years of studies.

Following the 1956 anti-Stalinist uprising, he took part in working out the memorandum after  November 4, as the position of the Hungarian Democratic Independence Movement, which was conveyed by the Government of India to the Soviet Government in order to settle Hungarian-Soviet relations.

He was arrested in May, 1957. He was sentenced him to life imprisonment on August2, 1958 without the possibility of appeal. In March, 1960, he participated in a prison hunger strike; he was released in 1963 in an amnesty.

He was specialized translator and then, he became a free-lance writer and literary translator in 1965. Some of his notable translations include Mary Shelley's ‘Frankenstein’, Thomas Wolfe's ‘Of Time and the River’, Ernest Hemingway's ‘Islands in the Streams’, J. R. R. Tolkien's ‘The Lord of the Rings’, Malcolm Lowry's ‘Under the Volcano’, John Ball's ‘In the Heat of the Night’, Colleen McCullough's ‘The Thorn Birds’, Yasunari Kawabata's ‘The Lake’ and John Updike's ‘Rabbit Redux’ and ‘Rabbit is Rich’. His own works include both novels and dramas.

He was founding member of the Network of Free Initiatives in 1988, then founding member of the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ). He was managing director of SZDSZ in 1988-89, then in 1989-90 he was member of the SZDSZ National Council. At the first multi-party elections in Hungary after four decades, Árpád Göncz was elected Member of Parliament in May 1990. He was Speaker of the House between May and August, 1990, then provisional President of the Republic. He was President of the Republic of Hungary from 4 August, 1990 to 4 August, 2000.

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